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Alphabet’s top lawyer, who has been accused of inappropriate workplace relationships, is stepping down

Alphabet’s board recently concluded an investigation into misconduct at the company but says Drummond’s departure is not connected.

David Drummond, Alphabet’s chief legal officer.
David Drummond, chief legal officer at Alphabet, is stepping down at the end of this month.
Ryan Anson/AFP via Getty Images
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

David Drummond, the chief legal officer of Google parent company Alphabet, is resigning at the end of this month. His announcement comes as the company’s board recently concluded an investigation into how Alphabet has handled claims of sexual harassment and misconduct, including Drummond’s own relationships with women at the company. The results of the investigation have not been made public, and a spokesperson for the company denied that the investigation is related to Drummond’s departure.

Drummond, a 20-year employee who has been with Google since its infancy and helped the company go public as its top lawyer, has seen his long tenure marked by allegations that he has had inappropriate relationships with several women at the company. His continued employment was a bone of contention for current and former Google employees who are frustrated by how the company has handled alleged sexual misconduct in its upper ranks. His presence has contributed to roiling internal dissent at a time when management is facing mounting protests from its rank and file about issues from climate change to immigration.

Drummond was one of several subjects in a bombshell report from the New York Times in 2018 about Google’s mishandling of sexual harassment claims and culture around office relationships. The article reported Drummond’s extramarital affair with his former employee in the legal department, Jennifer Blakely, who described being pushed out of the company as Drummond’s own career soared. In August 2019, Blakely came forward with more details about the affair in a Medium post, alleging that Drummond had multiple affairs while they were together, including with another Google colleague, and that he knowingly violated rules around workplace relationships. Drummond has denied that he “started a relationship” with anyone else at Google or its parent company Alphabet, other than Blakely. Drummond has reportedly since married another woman who works in Google’s legal department.

“Drummond’s persistence at the top of the management chain was something of a running joke in the wake of the walkout,” Claire Stapleton, a former Google employee and one of the organizers of a historic employee-led walkout against the company’s handling of sexual harassment claims, told Recode. “It made it almost impossible to believe Google management was taking the issues seriously.”

Other former Google employees, including a high-ranking former exec, Bill Maris, who founded Google’s investment arm, Google Ventures, similarly shared his disapproval of Drummond’s employment. Maris told Axios, “David Drummond is the reason I left Google. ... We have very, very different ideas about how to treat people, and this was a long time coming.”

Drummond was a top executive at the company, and his departure is also another sign of major leadership changes at the company following the exits of co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin from their executive roles.

Drummond announced his departure in a memo sent to colleagues today, which was reported by various outlets and confirmed to Recode by an Alphabet spokesperson. It reads in part: “With Larry and Sergey now leaving their executive roles at Alphabet, the company is entering an exciting new phase, and I believe that it’s also the right time for me to make way for the next generation of leaders.”

Drummond has been cashing out his stake in the company prior to his announced departure. In the past several months, Drummond has sold millions in Alphabet stock as part of a pre-arranged trading plan. He’s reportedly sold $200 million worth of his Alphabet shares in January alone.

In the past, Google has drawn scrutiny for offering multimillion dollar exit packages to top executives accused of sexual misconduct at the company. A spokesperson for Google told Recode that Drummond is not receiving an exit package.

Previously, Drummond has defended his conduct with women at Alphabet and his past relationship with Blakely, saying, “It’s not a secret that Jennifer and I had a difficult break-up 10 years ago. I am far from perfect and I regret my part in that.”

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